Why is counselling so good this time & how is it having such a positive and powerful impact?

In my previous post, you will notice I asked a lot of questions about the counselling process. This post will hopefully give you some insight into my own ideas, views and beliefs about my counselling. 

So; onto my response to my questions.

I wonder why it works so well this time? What is different this time? How had it become that I felt great after each session? Was it to do with the counsellor, or was it to do with me? And is this how it feels when it really works? Is this what counselling should look like? And if so, why had it never looked like this before?

I believe that this time around, my own approach to my counselling has been very different to previous therapies. In the last 10 years, one of the most important lessons I have learned, is that honesty and openness helps to keep me well. I don’t necessarily mean just being honest about how my days have been or how I feel now etc. I mean complete honesty as in also bringing up any issues with the counselling process too. During my last counselling session, which seems to have been the most significant yet, I spoke to my counsellor about issues I’d normally shy away from. You know, when you want to say ‘There is something I would like to say’ but you don’t feel confident enough? I wanted to discuss my own behaviour and bring up things that required a certain amount of assertiveness to it. And I did that; I brought things to the session that felt so difficult to discuss but I knew if I didn’t that it would play on my mind and eat away at me. What was different this time? The counsellor is the obvious difference. A fresh pair of eyes is always helpful. But I think the main difference is my approach. I am not going to gain much from the sessions if I am not as open and honest with the counsellor as I should be. I have learned that my thoughts and feelings are not right or wrong. They just are. I have learned so many times, that bottling something up; even the ‘small’ things, can be detrimental to my health. I know from experience, that if I don’t speak the truth about my feelings, that it takes it’s toll on me and I can become very unwell.

I do believe this is what counselling should look like, for sure. I believe that an effective partnership between counsellor and client is essential. If you don’t feel comfortable with somebody you are working with, then it’s likely that you won’t feel able to bring your most difficult feelings to the sessions. Feeling great after sessions isn’t just about having a ‘buzz’ from getting things off your chest; it’s also about feeling motivated, confident in your own abilities and inspired to make changes; no matter how small. 

I think that counselling this time around is so different because I am so different to how I used to be. I know a lot more about myself, through all my previous therapy, and I’m lucky enough to have become assertive throughout my life (not just in counselling).

That does not mean I have assertiveness down to a tee. There are some areas in my life where I still struggle a lot. But, if it can change and improve in other areas of my life, I know it can change in all areas. I just have to be patient with myself enough for it to come in time.

So… the key, for me has been: authenticity, transparency and honesty. In general, we get back what we put in. So going into anything half-arsed means you won’t experience the optimum benefit. Holding back only means you prevent yourself from taking another step forward. Only you can change that; with the right person/therapist. It’s a combination really then.

A good therapeutic relationship in which you feel safe enough to do or say things that may enable you to learn about yourself, along with a drive within you that makes you want to improve things, will equal success. Whether it improves your own self-belief, self-esteem or confidence will mainly depend on how much of the real issues you discuss. 

This time around, therapy is different in the sense that I am not learning skills I didn’t have; it is more about re-connecting with my current skill set. Of course I am, and may continue to learn new skills too, in the process; which is a bonus.

The quote below is one of my favourites, and by one of my all-time favourite writers; Erin Hanson. Don’t be afraid of falling. Just go with the flow. Take risks and believe in yourself. You have what you need, inside. You just need to access it ❤ something that my counsellor has recently reminded me of. She’s spot on! 

I graduated from therapy

Well, strictly speaking, I’ve got 1 last 1-2-1 session next week, but I had my last group session today and although it was hard knowing I won’t be going back into that kind of supportive environment, it was exciting too. The prospect of a lie-in on a Thursday got the better of me!

In all seriousness this is a huge deal for me. I never thought I’d be able to say that I’ve reached the end of therapy, after 9 full years in services, and feel excited about it. If you read my post about attachments, you’ll hopefully understand a little more about how strong my attachments were with mental health professionals (in particular) who were working closely with me. To finally completely let go of those safe attachments, and that safety harness, is the scariest thing to think of, and admit to. For some strange reason, up until recently, I found it so difficult to just tell it how it is. It just wouldn’t happen for me, until I’d started to develop personally, in my recovery. I was talking to my CPN in my 1-2-1 about 3-4 months ago. I said something (but have no idea what it was) and I realised at that moment that there was a change in me. Literally, out of nowhere, came reels and reels of complete honesty about my life. I admitted to things I’d never even be able to admit to myself, and from that point I felt completely amazing. It is so hard to describe what happened that day, in that 50 minutes, because it’s something that’s never happened to me before. Nothing has ever made me feel as good as I did, and have, from that day. Simply because I stopped pushing the true thoughts/feelings away, and I said them out loud which acknowledged them for the first time, comfirming they were in fact very real. I explained my attachment issues with professionals and admitted that I was terrified of being discharged; instead of persistently repeating “I’m not worried about being discharged at all” (whilst secretly shitting my pants). I admitted that, for some reason, I found it hard to give the professionals all the information they needed, in order to be able to support me better. Instead, I would drip-feed them information, try and hold it all together, until a ‘crisis’ would occur which would usually end up in a hospital admission. I was aware at the time that I drip-fed, and I couldn’t help it. It was my way of keeping myself safe I suppose, and I think now that it’s something we all do to a degree. Not a lot of people go around being 100% honest every second of every day about how they were feeling, we have to build up trust with people and learn when it’s ‘safe’ and appropriate to express our thoughts/feelings. It just takes different amounts of time for others to start trusting people, and I guess the more you’ve been let down by people in the past, the longer it’s going to take you to build up that trust with somebody in the future. It’s a really ‘simple’ psychological defence mechanism that keeps us safe from other people.

While it may take somebody a long time to trust if they’ve been hurt previously, it can sometimes be the opposite too. For me, I’d sit there wanting to honestly answer their questions, (are you having urges to self-harm? Are you safe? Are you feeling suicidal?) and the real answer would come into my head, but they heard the complete opposite to whatever that was. The answers to those questions at that time, by the way, would have been no, yes & no; but the real truth at that time would have been yes, no, yes. Is that confusing to you? I’m chuckling now at the thought of you going to and from the questions to match the answers. To sum up where I’m at now, if I was having urges to self-harm, wasn’t safe and felt suicidal, and I was asked those questions, I wouldn’t lie. I’d be able to express my true feelings in a way where other people could understand them better. Rather than, saying I was fine and then an hour later taking an overdose or hurting myself in some way. It really sounds so simple to me now, but you know what, when you’re in that ‘place’ you feel completely and utterly paralysed by your emotions.